Broken bikes, Tour De France legends, the Kilburn High Road, and a new poem!

A single Tour de France is reckoned to take a year off your life. No idea how they work that shit out, but when you take into account that in order to win the race this year Bradley Wiggins covered 2,173 miles in 20 stages with only two rest days, it starts to make sense. 

Get this though. In 1926 the tour spanned it’s longest route ever – a whopping 3,570 miles, in just 17 stages. Madness. To really put things in perspective though consider that last Monday I carried my broken bike the 0.7 miles from my house to Brondesbury Overground station. More on that later.

When I first started watching the tour I was impressed by the spectacle, by the sheer scale of it, the beautiful scenery, the speed of the riders. But as I watched more and more of it each year, and read a little of the history, I began to understand the intricacies of cycling as a team sport, and to appreciate the heroic work by the domestiques that so easily goes unnoticed by the casual observer. Check out the team mates in the background of the picture below, celebrating as their sprinter Andre Greipel wins a stage. He will also know he couldn’t have done it without them, and it is these interwoven personal stories that make the tour so special – in an event that lasts three weeks it is almost impossible not to feel like you are getting to know the personalities of the riders as you watch them race.

Anyway, when I arrived at Brondesbury station I was told the no bikes on the overground policy in place over the Olympics had been extended. By one day. And they had decided that this morning. And so instead of going to the bike shop to get my bike fixed I had to carry my bike back home again. Great.

Now if you’ve ever carried a broken bike you’ll know that as well as probably making you feel very pissed off, it can also make you feel like a bit of a hero, struggling through against the odds. Not this time though. Nope. Just pissed off. I was however comforted mid-journey by a re-sparking in my brain of probably my favourite bit of tour folklore ever:

In 1913, the first man to wear the yellow jersey, Eugene Christophe, broke his forks mid-Stage – a stage which I may add saw the riders set off at 3am! Now this was well before the days of replacement bikes, team mechanics and the like, and so Cristophe had to carry his bike over ten kilometres to the next village where he set about welding it back together under instructions from the village blacksmith, as riders were responsible for their own repairs as well, and no outside assistance whatsoever was permitted. Literally hours behind the rest of the peloton he eventually finished the stage, only to find that he had still been docked time – for getting a little boy in the village to pump the bellows for him!

When I first read about this story it inspired a poem, or at least part of a poem which I was already writing… Enjoy!

La Mistral
Everything I have ever done has been for this,
every choice I ever made was the right one coz it led me here.
Bright pink frame, drop handlebars, skinny racing tyres.
Big city is my home and right now, weaving in and out of the traffic,
it makes sense. Yes. All of it. I wear my confidence, quietly.
Denim shorts, the yellow jersey, and an old school cycling cap.
You will hear my approach, la mistral
that fierce, undefeatable wind from the bald mountain.
And maybe you will see yourself, reflected in the shop window
across the street, and notice how, even at the exact moment
that I pass, your reflection still remains.
a tingle on the back of your neck,
as you watch this little hill in north west big city
become the Col Du Tourmalet, Peaking at 6,939 feet
I breathe out only mountain air,
cold enough to the strip the fear from the world
Bright pink frame, drop handlebars, skinny racing tyres.
My eyes lift up, and are the eyes of Eugene Christophe,
in 1913, as he carries his broken bike
For over ten kilometers, before welding it back together himself,
And still finishing the stage. My only conversations
are breathless victory interviews, still in the saddle.
Bright pink frame, drop handlebars, skinny racing tyres.
Wheels turning. I wear the present moment in a wedding band,
an eternity ring of right now, again and again and again.
Wheels turning. Tarmac flying by. Each rotation what it is and what it is and what it is.

Simon Mole, 2012

Tongue Fu Anthology Launch

Tongue Fu Anthology Launch
Thursday, September 13, 2012
8:00pm - All Ages Buy Tickets
Bethnal Green Road

London, London, UK E1 6LA
Other Info
We're celebrating the publication of our first Tongue Fu book - ‘Liminal Animals’ - a compact little anthology from some of the fine poets whom we've had the pleasure of hosting.

A riotous, jam-packed bill of fine friends and wordsmiths will perform, as always, with improvised soundtracks and films from The Tongue Fu Band and CR&D.


Francesca Beard: Internationally celebrated poet, playwright and live-lit provocateur with work for The Royal Court, The Barbican and BBC Radio 4 under her sparkly belt.
"Spine-tingling... Witty and narcotic." The Independent

Ben Mellor: BBC Radio 4 National Poetry Slam Champion, writer, theatre maker, activist and founder member of Manchester’s Pun-ultimate collective.
“A pure undiluted talent. Concentrated" Lemn Sissay

Indigo Williams: Show stopping young poet, associate artist at The Roundhouse, worked with RSC and recently stormed a sold out QEH warming up for Saul Williams.

Plus special guests

Tshaka Campbell, Simon Mole, Liv Torc and more

Writer in Residence Shane Solanki

Hosted by

Chris Redmond: as heard on BBC Radio 4’s Pick Of The Week. or 020 7613 7498 for tickets
£7 / £5 concs
Doors 7.30pm / Show 8.00pm

“Top performance poetry night” The Independent
“Tongue Fu is at the high end of the scene.” Time Out
“the best poetry night in London”

Liminal Animals will be available to buy on the night. It features poems from:

Salena Godden; Lemn Sissay; Ross Sutherland; Sabrina Mahfouz; Inua Ellams; Luke Wright; Aiofe Mannix; Elvis Mcgonagall; Francesca Beard; Dizraeli; Shane Solanki; Jacob Sam-La Rose; Byron Vincent; Tim Clare; Simon Mole; Joshua Idehen; Bridget Minamore; Belinda Zhawi; Kat Francois; Tshaka Campbell; Zia Ahmed; Indigo Williams; Liv Torc; Maria Slováková; Ben Mellor; A F Harold; Anna Freeman; Musa Okwonga and Chris Redmond.

£1 from the sale of every copy goes to Mind – The Mental Health Charity

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Right then, last Monday I was lucky enough to go to the dress rehearsal for Kate Tempest’s new full length show which is running at BAC until the 22nd. I doubt I will put it better than the press release so here is the basic premise:

Unfolding on the edges of the city, Brand New Ancients discovers the
myths of modern times in the lives of two families as they collide, connect and come apart – all racing towards a violent conclusion.

Poet and rapper Kate Tempest tells an everyday epic over an exhilarating
live score played by tuba, cello, violin, drums and electronics, that
finds the gods of today all around us and reveals that our true heroes are much closer that we think.

It goes without saying that Kate is an incredible rapper, poet, performer and playwright, and the quality of the writing in this show is indeed wildly good throughout. The musicians are amazing too, and Kate proper gets going with a flow over some dope beats at points. In fact there is so much I could say about the writing and the music, and the staging, all of it, and 99% of everything I would say would be positive. But time is tight and the biggest compliment I think I can pay the show is to say that it filled me with an overwhelming urge to call my loved ones as soon as I left the theatre, to tell them how perfectly imperfect they all are, how proud I am of the everyday epics in our lives, of the struggles we struggle and the grind we grind. I bounced home.

Basically, Kate has managed to retain that thing she does that fills you with longing, and with the knowledge of your own power and beauty, but to do that within a tightly constructed, multi-layered narrative spanning generations. Genuinely blown away. Do the right thing and get your tickets here:

Keats House Poets Present…

Keats House Poets Present...
Sunday, September 9, 2012
2:00pm - All Ages Buy Tickets
Keats House, Keats Grove
Hampstead, London, UK NW3 2RR
Other Info
The Keats House Poets present:
A chilled out Sunday afternoon of (FREE) poetry and spoken word...

and a (FREE) amazing film!!

With performances from:
Raymond Antrobus
Simon Mole
Deanna Rodger
Kaamil Ahmed

The Albany Young Poets

As well as a screening of hit documentary WE ARE POETS, which as a special treat will be followed by a Q & A with the director! Boom!

Where: Keats House, Keats Grove, London. NW3 2RR.
Nearest tube: Hamstead Heath.

What: Keats House Poets are back, launching our autumn season with this bumper package of free poetry goodness!

The event will start promptly at 2pm, and due to the film screening, open mic slots may be limited so best to arrive early for the chance to perform at this prestigious venue!

The film screening will begin at 3.30pm, and the event as a whole will be done by about 5.30/6 pm

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The Midnight Run!

In July I was lucky enough to be involved in a wonderful thing called The Midnight Run – led by poet Inua Ellams, a group of people explore a city at night; walking, chatting and taking part in creative activities laid on by the artists selected for that particular outing. The run I was involved in also featured a musician, a holistic therapist, a film-maker, and a photographer, and was laid on for young creatives taking part in the ‘Africa Eutopia’ season at Southbank Centre.

I would tell you more about what we got up to, but part of my job for the night was to write a poem, which I hope says what it needs to. You can read and listen to here:

The Midnight Run
At midnight
We should be somewhere high up
things matter less here
The skinny brick wall, walk it
with a day on either side, walk it
hard as it is to balance long enough to stay
walk it arms together, pointing only up.

London wears midnight like a new suit
still pristine, the shirt tugged open at the neck.
These are nights of running, fast
running fast pointless fast relays fast
Round the crypt of St. Martin’s Vestry Hall
rolled up newspapers = batons
roaring crowds = the wobbly post-pub peleton
drunkenly urging us on.
These are nights of walking, slow
With no purpose but to walk,
Nights of quick stops at newsagents
That take ages, clan clustered chatting
Outside, waiting for the last of us to hurry up and choose
Only to realise that we are all here.
And have all been here for some time.
Move on. One Midnight
can strip you naked with a glance
Gather what you can around you
Let it go. These are nights of music.
And much later, in a quiet street
TJ plays a melody his mother hums, always
listening, I see her in her kitchen,
but his guitar makes this a kitchen that I know
Again later, now alone
I stop on one wide pavement, and face another
building that is tall enough to make me feel a child.
The top floor: four windows are lit.
I will put one problem in each.
And stand here, on the pavement opposite
Until all the lights are out. Until my midnight
is as clear as Whitman’s midnight, Within time
I see the space between things
as much as the things themselves
things matter less here
midnight has left it’s handprint
on the window of my soul.
In the morning when I wake
I breathe on the glass, tap it once
And watch it crack. It makes a sound
Like the sky.

Simon Mole, 2012